There are so many ways "Ruthless!" the musical farce playing at Germantown Community Theatre could have gone wrong.
In lesser creative hands, the plot could have gotten mangled in its own wicked intricacies.
And if it had lesser actors, it could have been groan-worthy for all the wrong reasons.
But audiences can be reassured that the Joel Paley/Marvin Laird musical is benefiting from the steady hand of director Michael Duggan who never lets "Ruthless!" go off the rails until it's just the right time.
The story is a mix, as GCT's executive director Brent Davis says. You'll find Carol Burnett's sketch of "As the Stomach Turns" with large portions of "Gypsy," dribbles of "Mame," dollops of "All About Eve" and a comic dose of "The Bad Seed."
The tale follows precocious 8-year-old Tina Denmark who wants to be a star on stage. Not when she grows up, but right now. She tries out for the lead in the school play, "Pippi in Tahiti, The Musical," and loses to an inferior but better connected competitor.
The story rambles and lurches hilariously from there, skewering ambition, greed, Broadway, egos of all kinds and motherhood.
Sometimes local comedy performances are done with more enthusiasm than skill. This is not the case here. Duggan and his cast know about getting the details right. The timing is spot on, the nonverbal action pops just right, the lines zing.
Kim Justis plays Tina's mother, and it's a full metal delight to see how she goes from supportive but overwhelmed mother to well, to something entirely different. It's wild, but her gift for nuance makes her performance priceless.
Sydney Bell is a splendid Tina, all gooey girlishness one minute and homicidal brat the next. Bell's performed Annie in "Annie" a few times and has a big voice to match, so she handles this plum role with authority.
"Ruthless!" is an all-female story, but it's become a tradition to have a man playing Sylvia St. Croix, the wily manager with a hidden agenda. Once again, Wesley Barnes puts on heels and attitude to boost this uproarious role. Barnes has worn enough dresses on stage to practically be considered British.
Everyone in the cast is strong, including Renee Davis Brame's saucy Eve, Julie Reinbold's embittered Myrna and Miss Block, and Sally Stover's theater critic Lita. Although I don't know why theater critics have been so abused in local comedies lately.
If you go
Show Times: 7:30 p.m. Thursdays, 8 p.m. Fridays/Saturdays and Sundays at 2:30 p.m. through June 2.
Tickets: $25, $15 for seniors and students, $10 for 12 and under.
Info: 901-937-3023 and gctcomeplay.org.
Originally published by Jon W. Sparks Special to The Commercial Appeal.
(c) 2013 Commercial Appeal, The. Provided by ProQuest LLC. All rights Reserved.
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